DINESH KARTHIK, Royal Challengers Bangalore wicketkeeper-batter
Dinesh Karthik has been by far the best performing Tamil Nadu player in the 10-team competition. The 36-year-old Karthik, who has been away from the international scene for a few years now, has been knocking on the doors of the India selectors with his impactful knocks down the order in IPL 2022. He is the second highest scorer for Bangalore – with 285 runs – behind captain Faf du Plessis (399 runs) and has been striking at over 190. Despite being in the twilight of his career, Karthik has been showing that he has enough fuel left in the tank to compete with the best in the business. “Before the start of the [IPL] season, my coach and I worked out what would be required. We did things (referring to training) a little differently. I feel very good (talking about his form). It is very important that I keep contributing to the team. I have a bigger goal in mind. I have a vision which I want to achieve. I am trying my best to achieve that,” Karthik said in an interview on Friday, expressing his desire to return to the national team. Credit must also be given to the Royal Challengers think-tank led by Mike Hesson, which has been using the player effectively.
RAVICHANDRAN ASHWIN, Rajasthan Royals all-rounder
The wickets column – nine scalps in 12 matches – may not reflect the kind of season Rajasthan off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has been having. With an economy rate of 7.25, Ashwin has been complementing his partner-in-crime Yuzvendra Chahal (23 wickets) by stemming the run flow in the middle overs. With the blade, the 35-year-old Ashwin has contributed 133 runs in eight innings, which have been worth their weight in gold for Rajasthan that does not bat deep. “I was in good batting rhythm before the start of the [IPL] season. I worked a bit on my batting; I tried to transfer my body weight forward and made a little switch in my technique,” said Ashwin after hitting a half-century against Delhi Capitals.
THANGARASU NATARAJAN, Sunrisers Hyderabad left-arm pacer
Having missed a major chunk of last year owing to injuries and COVIDrelated isolation, Thangarasu Natarajan roared back to form in the first half of IPL 2022 before sitting out with a niggle. A member of the pace-heavy Hyderabad attack, Natarajan is the highest wicket-taker of the franchise in the 15th edition – with 17 scalps – despite missing a few matches. While the 31-year-old has been a tad expensive – with an economy rate of 8.65 – he has been providing breakthroughs at regular intervals. Regarded as a death-over specialist, Natarajan has bagged eight wickets in that period. The left-arm pacer has earned praise from all corners of the cricket community, with former India head coach Ravi Shastri saying that the national team had missed a bowler of the calibre of Natarajan at the 2021 T20 World Cup in the UAE. “My goal is to stay injury-free (laughs). I played only two matches in the last IPL. This year, I have a small goal of winning a few matches for my team,” Natarajan had told, at the start of the ongoing edition.
R SAI KISHORE, Gujarat Titans left-arm spinner
After warming the Chennai Super Kings bench for two years, R Sai Kishore finally made his IPL debut on Tuesday. Turning out for debutant Gujarat in the victory over Lucknow Super Giants, Sai Kishore sizzled in his maiden League outing with two wickets and one catch. Sai Kishore, the spearhead of the Tamil Nadu spin-bowling department in domestic competitions, had been waiting in the wings since IPL 2020. “At some point, every player looks forward to playing (referring to spending a lot of time on the bench). I would say that I have been honest to myself in the last three years. Emotions just flowed through when I received the [Gujarat] cap and I felt relieved. Good start [to my IPL career]. I am grateful,” the 25-yearold Sai Kishore told the official broadcaster in a recent chat.
VIJAY SHANKAR, Gujarat Titans batter
Vijay Shankar has been one of the disappointments in the 15th edition of the League. Tamil Nadu all-format skipper Vijay Shankar was given opportunities to stake a claim in the Gujarat eleven, but did not make use of them in the first half of the season. With a paltry 19 runs in four innings at an average of a mere 4.75, Vijay Shankar, who was sent in at No.3 at all times, did not help himself. The terrible batting form led to his axing and with a well-set Titans set to compete for top honours at the business end of the tournament, Vijay Shankar is unlikely to make a comeback into the eleven.
WASHINGTON SUNDAR, Sunrisers Hyderabad all-rounder
Off-spinning all-rounder Washington Sundar has delivered with the ball on most occasions, but injuries have not been kind to him. The 22-year-old Washington, one of Hyderabad’s weapons in the powerplay overs, has produced miserly spells with the new ball. But, unfortunately, the India international has suffered injury in his bowling hand – split webbing in the right hand – twice already in the ongoing IPL season. As a result of the double blow, Washington has featured in only six matches for SRH, which has missed the tweaker’s services dearly in recent games. “His (Washington’s) injury did have an impact on our bowling, given he plays such a critical role for us in the first 10 overs,” Sunrisers head coach Tom Moody had said at a post-match press conference.
MURUGAN ASHWIN, Mumbai Indians spinner
Having featured in 2/3rd of his team’s matches so far, Murugan Ashwin has picked up nine wickets, the third-most by a Mumbai bowler in IPL 2022. Despite not being a regular in the Mumbai side that has been struggling to find its right combination, Ashwin has shown that he is capable of delivering the goods when backed properly. The emergence of young off-spinner Hrithik Shokeen has led to Ashwin’s removal in a few matches.
VARUN CHAKRAVARTHY, Kolkata Knight Riders spinner
After impressing in the previous two editions, mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy, the only Tamil Nadu player to be retained ahead of the mega auction, has been inconsistent thus far. Varun’s indifferent form – just five wickets in nine matches – has been one of the reasons behind Kolkata’s struggles this season. Varun was dropped for a few games after being ineffective for a while, but is back in the eleven as KKR hopes to end IPL 2022 on a high.
SHAHRUKH KHAN, Punjab Kings batter
Punjab invested heavily – Rs 9 crore – in Shahrukh Khan, but the franchise dropped the big-hitting batter a few games ago to strike the right balance in the eleven. Shahrukh, who had a commendable season in Tamil Nadu colours, displayed flashes of brilliance in the early IPL 2022 matches but could manage only 98 runs in seven outings. The experienced Rishi Dhawan has been preferred to Shahrukh in the lower middle-order in recent games, thanks to the former’s all-round abilities. Having made his IPL debut – for Punjab – last year, the highly-rated Shahrukh is yet to unleash his best in the competition.
B SAI SUDHARSAN, Gujarat Titans batter
B Sai Sudharsan has been in and out of the Gujarat playing eleven in his maiden IPL season, but has showed what he is capable of. Batting at either No.3 or No.4, the 20-year-old Sai Sudharsan has accumulated 145 runs in five outings and has not shied away from taking down top-quality bowlers. His best knock came against Punjab Kings, a match in which he smashed an unbeaten 65 off 50 deliveries albeit in a losing cause. “[Head coach] Ashish Nehra and [captain] Hardik Pandya have made sure the team atmosphere is pleasing. Even when you are left out of the eleven, you do not feel lonely. We are a cohesive unit and I am happy to be part of this team,” said Sai Sudharsan after Gujarat became the first team to qualify for the IPL 2022 play-off stage.